The Minamata Convention on Mercury

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The Minamata Convention on Mercury

Origin Story

In the mid-1950s, the residents of Minamata, a small fishing town facing the Yatsushiro Sea (Shiranui sea) in southern Japan, reported the cats in the town were behaving strangely. They would erratically jump into the sea, causing people to think the cats were going crazy.

Minamata Disease

In 1956, a 5-year-old girl started developing unusual neurological symptoms. She had convulsions and difficulties in walking and speaking. It wasn’t long before her sister developed similar symptoms.

Soon, this unknown illness spread through the town. The residents of Minamata reported numbness in their limbs and lips. Some had difficulty hearing or seeing. Others developed tremors in their arms and legs, had difficulty walking, and some even had brain damage. Like the cats, some people seemed to be going wild, screaming uncontrollably.

It wasn’t until July 1959 that researchers from Kumamoto University discovered the source of the illness. They concluded it was from high levels of mercury poisoning. Further investigation found that a chemical factory was releasing industrial wastewater that contained methylmercury into the Minamata Bay and Shiranui Sea.

As townspeople relied primarily on fish-based diets, the mercury in the water entered their bodies through the fish. It is estimated that 27 tons of mercury compounds were dumped into the Minamata Bay and Shiranui Sea. Unfortunately, by this time, women with mercury poisoning gave birth to babies with severe deformities, including sensory disturbances and a host of other unfortunate symptoms that would leave them permanently disabled. This disease is referred to as Minamata disease. According to the Japanese government, 2,955 people contracted Minamata disease, and 1,784 people died.

In recognition of this catastrophic event, the UN Convention on Mercury is named after Minamata.

The Treaty

The Minamata Convention on Mercury was adopted following four years of negotiations after an open diplomatic conference, the Conference of Plenipotentiaries, held in Kumamoto, Japan, from 10 October to 11 October 2013. The Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017. The Minamata Convention on Mercury aims to protect the environment and human health against anthropogenic emissions and the release of toxic heavy metals.

minamata convention on mercury

As an international agreement with support objectives, the agreement contains provisions covering the whole life cycle of mercury, including controlling, and reducing the range of products, processes, and industries in which mercury is used, released, or emitted.


The preamble to the Convention states that the parties acknowledge that mercury is an element of global concern for the following reasons:

  • Its extensive atmospheric transference
  • Its persistence in the environment after being anthropogenically introduced
  • Its ability to bioaccumulate in ecosystems
  • Its significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.

The preamble also acknowledges the work done by the WHO to protect human health from mercury and its toxic effects, the role of relevant multilateral environmental agreements, and support for the Convention and other international agreements in the areas of environment and trade.


Participating countries have agreed to take steps to protect human health and the environment from mercury, cadmium, and lead pollution. Still, only mercury is regulated – a binding instrument of regret for environmentalists who have long fought to regulate heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and cadmium at the international level. Specific provisions of the Convention also include:

  • The ban on new gold mines
  • Eliminating existing mines
  • Regulating mercury usage in artisanal and small-scale gold mining
  • Limiting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants


The Minamata Convention, led by the United Nations, has been signed by 128 countries.

2020 marked the deadline for phasing out of import, export, and manufacture of products with mercury additives such as lamps, batteries, pesticides, and certain cosmetics. When discarded carelessly, small products like lamps and batteries with even trace amounts of mercury end up in landfills. This mercury will eventually leak into the environment and cause irreversible damage, much like the devastating incident in Minamata.

However, seeing resolutions through to the end on a global level is much more complicated than it seems. To protect human populations and the environment from mercury pollution, countries have several areas of research that require systematic plans for long-term action.

With Brandenburg’s Genus® LED range of fly traps, there is no risk of exposing humans or the environment to mercury. LED lamps do not contain mercury and consume significantly less power, which reduces mercury emissions from coal-burning for electricity generation.

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Fly Traps – Everything You Need to Know

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Fly Traps – Everything You Need to Know

In 1552, the first Czar of Russia, popularly nicknamed Ivan the Terrible, supposedly announced a morbid prize for anyone that devised a way to get rid of “devils of the air”. He was referring to flies. Unfortunately for the Czar, none of his subjects would succeed, nor would anyone for the next 379 years.


fly trap history

You are probably familiar with this picture if you’ve watched a movie that depicts mythology or ancient kingdoms. For the longest time, you probably believed the person in the image was a fan bearer. While that is true on certain occasions, it turns out the “fan” in this picture is a horsetail staff, to drive away annoying flies.

early flies

This is probably the first recorded example of fly control.


fly swatter

We can trace back the first patented commercial sale of fly killers to 1900. Robert R. Montgomery, the inventor, called it a fly-killer. It was later renamed “fly-swatter” by Samuel Crumbine, Secretary of the Kansas Board of Health at the time.


The inception of fly swatter paved the way for numerous domestic and eventually commercial fly control devices.

1. Fly Gun

The fly gun took off right after the fly swatter. It is a simple mechanic projectile fly killer.

Fly Gun



2. Fly Bottle

The fly bottle or glass fly trap was first seen around the mid-1800s. It was an onion-shaped, handblown glass with a narrow top. It was filled with sugary liquid to attract flies and wasps. In other parts of the world, meat was used as bait. The positive phototaxis of the flies makes it harder to leave through the narrow, darkened opening of the trap.

fly catch bottle

3. Agricultural Fly Bottle

The fly bottles evolved for large-scale use on agricultural farms in the 1930s, where they were designed to be hung from trees.

agriculture fly traps

Today they have been modified and manufactured using plastic, and are still widely in use.

plastic fly bottle

4. Fly Paper

Flypapers are extremely sticky paper coated with sweet and fragrant substances to attract flies and a toxic substance that traps and kills them. The flypaper originated in the era of horse-drawn carts when flies were aplenty. They were handmade at local drugstores.

The flypaper, also called fly ribbon or fly strip, was easily accessible and disposable. They laid the foundation for glue boards as we know them.

fly trap tape

5. Bug Zapper

In 1911, Popular Mechanics Magazine featured a piece that looks a lot like the modern-day bug zapper, and they called it the “fly trap”. Two anonymous men from Denver take credit for designing this electric zapper.

first fly traps

William Folmer and Harrison Chapin filed for the patent of the commercial ‘bug zapper’ in 1931. In 1934 the patent was granted, and the two men had made several improvements to their design. To this day, not much change has been made structurally to the electric insect zapper.

As industrialisation transformed civilisation, and awareness about the need for hygiene spread, the requirement for domestic fly controls reduced. Still, the need for robust, comprehensive fly control solutions would set a precedent for today’s USD 19.1 Billion global pest control market.


Flies are a significant cause for nuisance with their constant buzzing, overhead flying, and ability to ruin a relaxing day. They are robust creatures that can survive temperatures from 10 to 45ºC ( 50 to 113ºF ). However, they thrive in areas with temperatures ranging from 20 to 23ºC (68 to 73ºF). This means that flies are found in most parts of the world.

Common houseflies can carry up to 100 different kinds of pathogens. It is estimated that a single house fly can carry up to 1.9 million bacteria on its body and up to 33 million in its gut. Some of these pathogens cause diseases like dysentery, salmonella, diarrhoea, and polio in human beings.


Flies lay their eggs in organic matter such as wet food waste, manure, meat, and vegetables. An adult female house fly is capable of laying 650 eggs in her 2-week life span. Common breeding grounds for flies include food preparation areas, food warehouses, slaughterhouses, food processing plants, garbage dumps, uncovered drains, cattle ranches, and poultry farms.

fly eggs

It is not difficult to see how fly population levels can rapidly spiral out of control if left unchecked. Failure to address and prevent fly contamination can adversely affect public health, sales, stock value and brand reputation. Therefore, billions of dollars are spent each year on food protection measures.

Flies are attracted to light, especially UVA light. Their compound eyes contain UV-sensitive photoreceptors, which have been hypothesised to trigger hardwired reflexes that draw them towards the light source. Studies have revealed the presence of a unique circuit in a fly’s brain specifically present to guide them toward UV light. Scientists and researchers have capitalised on this aspect of fly behaviour to develop insect light traps.


1. High Voltage Zappers

viper 30 fly traps

Zappers use UV light to attract flies to a high voltage grid, which electrocutes and disintegrates them on contact. This is usually accompanied by a zapping sound, giving these types of units their name. They are generally equipped with a catch tray to contain insect remains.

2. Glue Board Based Light Traps

glue board fly trap

Unlike zappers, these traps attract flies to a glue board, where they are trapped. These units are much safer for use in food handling areas, as flies are trapped intact. Glue boards need replacement once a month or more, depending on the intensity of fly activity.

Additional features on the glue board like marked grids for identification and fly counting, clean-peel release paper, pheromone integrated glue formulation, and UV stabilised glue, as seen in Brandenburg’s Easy Count Universal Glue Board, allow for enhanced performance and improved monitoring of fly activity.



Each year billions of dollars are spent on food protection measures. Although scientific and technological advancements have greatly improved the efficiency of fly traps, maintaining a pest-free and sanitary environment remains one of the most significant challenges facing the food and health industry.

To keep fly populations under control, limiting the places where they can breed is critical. Consistent sanitation practices and suitable fly traps go a long way in keeping fly activity at bay.

1. High Voltage Zappers

Studies have shown that the fly disintegrates into tiny fragments upon electrocution. The body parts can become airborne, landing up to 1.5 meters away from the trap.
For this reason, zapper units must NOT be used in and around food-handling areas. However, they are the perfect choice for loading docks, and garbage disposal areas where the risk of food contamination is minimal.

warehouse fly control

2. Glue Board Based Light Traps

UVA light-based glue boards trap flying insects fully intact. For this reason, glue boards are best suited for areas where food is handled, like kitchens, food processing units, and pantries.

Glue board traps are also ideal for front-of-house areas like supermarkets, hotel lobbies, and restaurant dining areas. However, flies and fly traps tend to be unattractive to customers and may not fit with the restaurant’s aesthetic appeal. Discreet fly traps that pose as ordinary light fixtures and blend in well with the ambience are the perfect choice in the areas mentioned above.

Brandenburg’s Genus® Illume Alpha is designed to look elegant and blend in seamlessly with any front-of-house decor. It enhances the overall ambience while improving food safety. It is available in black, white, brass or stainless steel finishing.

Illume fly trap

Similarly, the Genus® Eclipse Ultra can be customised with branded inserts to provide an additional brand touchpoint in your facilities. This allows for brand exposure while also delivering fast fly catch discreetly on its large glue board.


Maintaining food safety requires careful planning and strategy regarding fly trap placement and the types of fly traps used. Knowing which fly traps to use in each situation is essential to check the transmission of diseases and effectively monitor fly infestations.

Studies have found that flies in clean areas carry far fewer pathogens than those found in places with unsanitary conditions. Thus, the importance of maintaining proper sanitation for food safety should never be underestimated.

Truly effective fly control is an ongoing exercise that requires constant vigilance and a highly systematic approach. It combines preventive measures like proper food management, waste disposal, and hygiene using fly traps and insecticides. While a well-implemented preventative routine can reduce the pressure on remedial measures, it is essential to have all preventive measures in place.

genus fly traps

We can’t control how efficiently you manage sanitation on your business premises, but we offer high-quality, sustainable fly traps that efficiently control the fly population. Brandenburg has created a name for itself in the food industry as the most sustainable and effective Insect Light Trap manufacturer.